The road to hell may indeed be paved with good intentions, but at least it got paved, so I reckon it’s about time my own ‘good intentions’ were placed into some sort of order. That’s why today finds me wandering around the property with a ballpoint and a notepad, diligently documenting what the locals would call desperfecciones. (The rural Spanish are not as easily intimidated as I am. A collapsed roof, a stone wall reduced to rubble, or a half-acre field flooded by a blocked culvert will be casually dismissed by them as a desperfección).
I want to make it clear that this is not, in any way, a defeat.
It’s simply a tactical withdrawal, after which we’ll regroup and return stronger, better prepared, and with a winning strategy. Sometimes you have to arrive at a negotiation; lose a little to gain a little more. Now the charts and diagrams have all been pored over, strengths and weaknesses assessed, what-if scenarios played out in grim detail. Now it’s time for feet on the ground. So with boots on, radio activated and earphones in, the moment has come to enter the arena.
It’s olive harvesting season.
Including the bucketful I’ve just collected from our single olive tree, which Sue is currently preparing for its journey through soaking and pickling in brine, we’ve picked perhaps three quarters of our modest annual harvest; the fifteen or so kilos will be plenty for our own consumption and for small gifts for friends and family. We’re lucky to be enjoying some sunny winter days, so her work is being carried out on the terrace, in sunglasses and shirtsleeves, while I inspect the myriad of tiny scrapes and scratches my hands and arms have collected while working in the tree. No major damage. Nothing that one or two of Sue’s beers won’t fix, anyway. Come sundown the temperature will drop like a stone and we’ll be scurrying indoors to install ourselves around the wood stove and sample a couple of bottles.
This summer we grew, among other things, courgettes. The dozen or so plants each produced six or more healthy, shiny examples. Although we ate as many as we could, many more were given away to friends and neighbours, and a few finally rotted away on the spent plants. (Shame, I know, but when even the chickens are sick of them, it’s time to throw in the towel.)
A financially successful venture, then? Not really.
The plants themselves were cheap enough at 10 centimos each, but then you need to add the cost of petrol for the rotavator, of the electricity used to pump water twice daily from the well to the huerto, and an hour a day of labour during five or six weeks to prepare the ground, sow, weed, water and harvest the crop, and finally clear the patch again. From a purely financial point of view, buying from the local market seems quite a bargain.